February 24, 2010
Rush Limbaugh has a huge audience, but across the broad spectrum of people, he’s a pretty unpopular guy. Specifically, his radio show has about 15 million listeners a week, which is the largest talk-radio audience in the United States. However, in opinion surveys, only 33% of Americans have a favorable view of him. And even 15 million listeners is still less than 5% of the American population.
Anyway, here’s my point. Limbaugh had this to say about the healthcare bill(s):
“The rich are going to stop getting all the good stuff, we’re gonna take — this is income redistribution, this is returning the nation’s wealth to its quote-unquote rightful owners,” he said yesterday in discussing the reform effort. “This is a civil rights bill. This is reparations, whatever you want to call it.”
So there you have it. President Obama (who, unrelatedly of course, is black) supports healthcare reform as a way to take money from rich white people and give it to blacks as reparations for slavery.
This is a serious point of view folks – Rush isn’t some crazy nut on a soapbox, no, he’s a controversial but otherwise respectable political commentator who is perfectly welcome among our political and journalistic elite. The Bush administration elders met one-on-one with this guy to discuss policy.
December 20, 2009
More signs of the coming Apocalype:
December 11, 2009
I wasn’t expecting much from Obama’s speech in Oslo – it’s not a particularly consequential event, and politically there are far more potential downsides than upsides (it only takes one little blurb that can be taken out of context and amplified, unfortunately, for the righties to go to town and harp endlessly about apologies and weakness and whatnot).
But there were a number of interesting things in there. The president, of course, was in the uncomfortable position of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize at a time when well over 100,000 US soldiers were fighting in two wars. In fact, Obama’s announcement that the war in Afghanistan would be escalated came only days before (which itself may not have been coincidental, given right-wing speculation – never to be taken seriously, of course – that the administration would be pressured to back off from the fight as a result of the prize). The fact that this is a war-time president was, therefore, on everyone’s mind in Oslo, and it’s no surprise that President Obama addressed this head-on.
What’s interesting, however, is that he didn’t truly offer any fully elaborated justification for Afghanistan. He discussed “just war,” but only so far as to take on pacifism and rigidly non-violent approaches to international affairs. There’s a lot of room, to say the least, between Gandhi and wars of choice like Iraq and Afghanistan. One can accept that wars are sometimes, or even frequently, necessary without believing that the invasions and nearly decade long occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were.
The president also addressed just war in the sense of a war’s conduct, rejecting torture and other violations of internationally accepted rules of combat. He didn’t go much further than boilerplate on this issue, and chose not to address some of the continuing controversies over America’s treatment of detainees or whether (or how) the United States should deal with war crimes committed under the previous administration.
Again, I didn’t expect more, or even really this much, so this shouldn’t be taken as criticism but rather observation. I certainly did not expect the president to offer a disposition on America’s justification for escalating the war in Afghanistan, and I’m well aware that the results would have been quite poor were he to have attempted to do so. From the point of view of political horse-racing, the speech was excellent. From the point of view of US interests, well, I don’t think the Nobel makes a difference much one way or the other – no speech would have made our wars easier to win, our alliances tighter, prevented global warming, or blanketed us with manna from heaven. But just looking at the content of the speech, well (and again, not surprisingly!), there really wasn’t a whole lot there. And yet it hinted on issues that Americans should be thinking about quite deeply: when America should go to war both in terms of our interests and our morals, the ethics we should adhere to in their conduct, and the significance of our alliances and international institutions.
As a final note, I was pleased to hear Obama say that hope for the future lies not in changes to human nature, but in the strength of our institutions. I wholeheartedly agree, and think that this needed to be said in, of all places, Europe. There is a tendency among Europeans, particularly on the left (and, I’m sorry to say, among fellow lefties here in the States!), to say, or at least to quietly assume, that human nature among certain groups has somehow progressed since the Second World War. In particular, that Europeans somehow learned their lessons from the horrors of WWII and from Hitlerism and have somehow woken up from the prolonged nightmare of human history. Having stared into the abyss, they have now somehow become Enlightened Post-Humans.
This is bullshit. We are the same violent and mentally fucked-up animals that we were 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 10,000 years ago. Human institutions have changed over those years profoundly, and we have learned new and clever ways to keep our darkest inclinations in check. But they are there. And if these institutions were to disappear tomorrow, we would rather quickly revert to a Lord-of-the-Flies-type state of nature.
To think otherwise is, indeed, naive. Additionally, this view of humanity – that we are not and never will be angels – is at the core of founding principles of the United States. These views were quite explicitly held by the Founders (who themselves were most certainly not the virtuous and wise Disney cartoon characters we’ve made them out to be).
Furthermore, the left holds no monopoly over this way of thinking. A similarly unhealthy view of human nature underlies the obsession of many on the right with the Glorious Nature of American Culture and Our Way of Life. They worship Real Americans who watch NASCAR, eat loads of meat, hunt, and live in the sticks. They expound endlessly about the virtues of the American People (or at least the “Real” ones). This, too, is bullshit. You don’t have to be a world traveler to notice that America is populated with the same bunch of self-important and self-interested imbeciles as the rest of the world. Our government was purposely set up to divide power and weaken the majority’s ability to dictate law because of this very fact. We’re just not all that.
Unfortunately Obama is right. War, and the horrors that go along with, is all to often the ethical choice. Pacifism is not in itself a virtue. We will never progress beyond human violence.
And, as Obama somewhat courageously pointed out, considering his audience, the United States has, to a large degree, underwritten the stability and peace of many places in the world, especially Europe, over the past 65 years, and has done so at great expense in blood and treasure. It most certainly has not always gotten it right, and has certainly started more wars and caused more bloodshed and misery than was necessary to achieve this goal. But the point is not American beneficence – after all, we have only acted in our own considered self-interest. The point is that peace does not simply stem from peaceful intentions. It requires strong international institutions and, perhaps most importantly, careful attention to the balance of military power.
None of this, though, serves to justify the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
December 9, 2009
Sarah Palin has an op-ed in the Washington Post. No idea, of course, who wrote it, other than that it wasn’t a scientist. I’m not going to link to it. Nobody reads this blog, but I’m not taking the chance that the Post will get clicks from here. It argues that Obama should not go to Copenhagen because the science behind anthropogenic global warming is bunk. It’s all part of a “radical environmentalist” conspiracy, you see, and the East Anglia emails prove it.
I cannot stand Palin (this does not mean, though, that I don’t take her very, very seriously), but I do understand that there always have been and always will be Palins in this world. What I don’t understand is: (1) how John McCain could have elevated such a person to prominence (without him, she’d still be a nobody and more than likely would remain a nobody); (2) how he was never held to account for his recklessness and cynicism in picking her and then drummed out of public office in disgrace; and (3) how she is given a platform in the mainstream media (yes, that same media she claims to be the victim of) and, most importantly, not called on her bullshit.
Copenhagen is obviously going to be big in the news this week – it’ll be everybody’s lead story (unless something else happens with Tiger Woods or some kid [doesn’t] gets trapped in a balloon again). So of course anyone who wants to be in the spotlight has to run out and say stuff on climate change to get into the news cycle. All the major papers – the Post, the Times, FT, WSJ, etc. – will run op-eds on the topic. They get to choose a handful of op-eds out of thousands than will be submitted, including literally hundreds from experts and notable people.
The Post chose Palin. And it chose an article from Palin that flies in the face of a broad and deep scientific consensus and peddles in conspiracy theories.
Shame on them.
Their op-ed page is nothing more than a running joke at this point. And now Palin, who holds no public office and whose only elected offices were mayor of Shitsville, Alaska and governor of a small
territory state, is apparently welcome to use the pages of the Washington Post as an extension of her own Facebook page. And is equally free to make outrageous and just plain false (and easily falsifiable) claims without any editor lifting so much as a finger.
December 4, 2009
Bruce Bartlett was a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and worked in H.W. Bush’s Treasury Dept. Now he writes for Forbes. But he was sounding the alarm about George W. Bush’s economic policies while W. was still in office, which of course makes him a left-wing communist in today’s parlance.
In his latest column, Bartlett evaluates the Obama stimulus and estimates its effect. He concludes (not atypically) that the stimulus worked, but the more interesting part is that the parts of the stimulus that worked best were outlays for goods and services (such as infrastructure investment), which produced the largest gains in GDP as a function of dollars spent from the government’s coffers. What worked the least? You guessed it: tax cuts. In particular, tax cuts aimed at the wealthy and at corporations (i.e., the Republicans’ solution to every economic problem), which overall produced less in terms of GDP than it cost in outlays.
He also calls the administrations estimate of roughly 650,000 jobs created by the stimulus “not unreasonable.”
2008’s Republican-sponsored tax rebate, by the way, did not have “any meaningful stimulative effect.”
The Republicans will continue to push tax cuts as a means to promote growth, even though there is no empirical evidence that this is true. There is no evidence, furthermore, that the not insignificant tax cuts under Bush had any positive effect on growth. Nonetheless, Republicans will push to make these cuts permanent. Apparently we are supposed to take it as an article of faith that tax cuts boost growth, even as taxes are now at historical lows in the United States (and are lower than almost any other developed country – and yes, this includes the corporate tax as well when one considers corporate loopholes). True, Japan has lower taxes than the United States, but I don’t think anyone wants to point to Japan to make the argument that lower taxes produce economic growth.
The Republicans should be held to account by our ineffective press corps and pushed to explain the economic theory they are relying on when they argue that tax cuts promote growth. ‘Reagan said so’ is not an acceptable answer (and taxes, by the way, were significantly higher when Reagan was president than they are now under Marxist-Leninist Obama).
November 28, 2009
For some reason, this was one of the top stories on boston.com last night:
“A Massachusetts woman who recently separated from her husband, had her hours at work cut, and moved into an apartment, says an image of Jesus Christ she sees on her iron has reassured her that ‘life is going to be good.'”
I for one am glad to see the Boston Globe (which operates boston.com) on top of these stories. The paper has been having some hard times lately, and stories like this can go a long way toward making the newspaper more relevant. Who says print media is dead?
And he’s not alone. His mother has been popping up all over the place – she’s especially fond of windows.
A recent study has shown that Jesus appears 14.7 times more than all non-Jesus and non-Jesus’s-mother deities combined. Jesus and his mom account for nearly 92% of all deity sighting in the United States since records started to be kept by the US Air Force’s Project Christbook in 1953.
What does Jesus want? Why an iron? Why a Cheeto? Why a dog’s asshole? Is there a pattern? A meaning? Is he trying to tell us something? And what should you do when Jesus appears on your iron? Use it more (make your clothes holy)? Never use it again (don’t burn Jesus!)? Is there a hotline to call?
The librul media and Obama clearly don’t want us to have answers to these questions. Thank God for the Boston Globe getting to the bottom of these stories.
October 2, 2009
These are the same right wingers who tell us that liberal are, pretty much by definition, traitors, and that they themselves are the Real Americans, more patriotic than the rest. Apparently it is lost on them that Chicago is an American city, and that the United States just lost out on hosting the Summer Olympics anytime over the course of the next decade.
I am skeptical about the benefits of hosting the Olympics. The criticism that it is difficult for many foreigners to enter the United States is a serious one. I am also skeptical about the economic benefits of hosting, and think many of the facilities that will get built for one-time use is a waste. And I don’t believe hosting the Olympics will do anything for America’s stature in the world – if people want to find ways to criticize an American Olympics, they will.
However, I cannot help but be disappointed that a city I consider world class was rejected. I am actually infuriated that it was dismissed so quickly and readily, and that greater consideration was given to Madrid, especially as another European city (London) is hosting in 2012, and Barcelona hosted what seems like last week. The Eurocentrism of the Olympics (and the anti-Americanism) is nauseating.
Yet more nauseating – and outright disgusting – is the spectacle of conservatives rooting against their own country and against a great American city in particular just because they hate the president. “Real Americans” indeed.
September 18, 2009
Someone please explain this to me. If the Republicans in Congress can successfully manage to maintain enough discipline in their own ranks so that none of them or at most one or two of them vote in favor of a healthcare bill sponsored by Democrats, why should this be considered a poor reflection on the bill itself? The Republicans are clearly aiming to block any healthcare bill. They have be unwilling to compromise, and have offered no demands that could possibly lead to a compromise. In fact, they have demonized healthcare reform itself as a form of “socialism” and have demonized Obama personally. Most importantly, they see opposition to any healthcare reform bill as a means of destroying Obama’s presidency (or at least severely weakening it). Their opposition is not primarily based on policy differences, but rather partisan considerations. Given this, how on Earth could their opposition reflect poorly on an individual bill? If you want to buy a car and I say I will oppose you buying any car at all and then go about impugning car ownership in general, how could my opposition to your car purchase reflect in any way the model you buy or its color?
More importantly, who gives a shit if the Republicans support it or not? Why is bipartisanship a good thing? The American voters put Obama in the White House by an enormous margin and gave the Democrats overwhelming majorities in Congress. Obama campaigned on healthcare reform. Public opinion supports healthcare reform. Assuming we still live in a democracy in which majorities decide such things, and we had a contested election in which one side emerged as a clear victor supporting a particular set of policies, should the victors not then seek to implement those policies? Is it not to be expected that the opposition, who campaigned against those policies, would seek to block them?
The Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008. Losing elections does not give you power. Winning elections does. If the Republicans want to have a say on healthcare, they should go win an election.
September 11, 2009
Joe Wilson, or Joe the Congressman as he shall be known (once you become an icon of the far right, you get a Sesame Streetesque moniker involving a regular-folks American name like Joe or Sarah and an occupation – it’s kind of a rule), sees opportunity where others see tragedy:
Note how he manages to get all of the following in there:
1. Apologizing for boorish behavior (really being forced to do so my GOP leadership) is a badge of honor, something heroic and utterly stand-up and adult.
2. Healthcare reform is “life-and-death.” By opposing the Democrats’ reforms, Joe stands for “life.” So what does that leave the Democrats with? Awesome. Getting the death panels in there without saying “panels.” It’s just plain “death.” These guys are sharp, I’ll tell you. Watch out, seniors, the GOP, suddenly now the guardians of Medicare’s single-payer, government-funded-and-run healthcare system, are going to protect you from Democrats who want to rain death down on the aged.
3. The apology has nothing to do with the substance of what he said. The reiteration of “liberals” wanting healthcare for “illegals” is a reaffirmation of his charge that the president was lying. So here’s the narrative: the president was indeed lying, and Joe the Congressman, protector of the elderly and the glorious Republic and its citizens, was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he could not contain himself in the face of such lies. He called Obama out. He was right, but it was kinda sorta inappropriate…even though Obama’s not the real president because he’s a Kenyan Muslim, and the British call each other liars all the time in their Congress or something (just to note a fact: while they do heckle, it is against the rules in the House of Commons for Members to accuse the speaker of lying – just saying).
4. Joe couldn’t help but blurt something out because the People were speaking through him. He got all riled up by those town meetings that he was carrying along We the People’s outrage. Not his fault.
5. I heckled the president and called him a liar on national television. Then I was forced to apologize because that hurts my party leadership. Give me money.
One important way of looking at this is that while this (essentially trivial) episode will likely hurt the GOP and strengthen the chances of getting a healthcare bill passed, it helps at least one individual: Joe Wilson. Sure, some lefties will give money to his opponent in 2010 (who has already raised more than $100,000 in 24 hours), but let’s face it – a Democrat is not going to win in Wilson’s South Carolina district. Wilson supported flying the Confederate flag over SC’s state house, for chrissakes. This is South Carolina we’re talking about here. Two days ago nobody had ever heard of Joe Wilson. Now he’s a hero of the right wing. Karl Rove called him a “good guy” on Fox. He’s news story #1. Sure, most people don’t like him. Sure, it’ll turn independents and moderate Republicans further away from the GOP. But Joe doesn’t care about that – he doesn’t answer to those people. He cares about the right wing nutbars that got him elected in South Carolina, and he cares about those future appearances on Fox or the Sarah Palin Show (watch for it, people) or Glenn Beck or whatever other circus out there is going to pay him more money than he ever dreamed of before “you lie” left his mouth. Joe’s a somebody now. Watch out, Sarah the Former Governor.
Oh, and his real name is Addison Graves Wilson, Sr. But hey, are any of the Joes really named Joe? When do we get the photos of him hunting wolves or something?
September 10, 2009
Apparently the press is going to focus on Joe Wilson’s outburst and overlook the fact that the Republicans as a whole were heckling the president throughout his speech, chortling and smirking, and holding up silly signs. Shockingly juvenile? Well, juvenile. No longer so shocking. Frightening, maybe. Read Dana Milbank in the Washington Post for a good summary of the GOP frat-boy behavior during the speech. He leaves out, though, Eric Cantor’s attachment to his Blackberry.
Also, how stupid do you have to be to believe the Democrats would write a bill that covered illegal immigrants (I’ll leave aside the abominably stupid death-panel claim)? Mind you, it might be a good idea to provide healthcare for illegal immigrants, considering that’s millions of people who live and work in the United States. However, given what Joe Average thinks about “the illegals,” what sort of idiot believes that the Democrats would commit political hari kari so spectacularly? I suppose the same rocket scientists who believe that the president is a closet Socialist/Islamist (I’m going with the term Islamunist, by the way).